Jerry Lewis, “one of the 5 most recognizable people in the world,” according to Newsweek magazine was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for his efforts and results with the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Jerry, now 91 and spending most of his time living in Las Vegas, helped organize the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 1950. He helped them raise more than $2 billion for almost 60 years.At age 19 he teamed up with Dean Martin to launch their careers to the top of the movie charts and worldwide stardom.
In 2008, News Legit’s Jack Dennis had the opportunity to meet Lewis in San Antonio. The American comedian, actor, and director expressed his thoughts on happiness and the key to success in life before he went on stage to address a crowd of 18,000 people in the Alamodome.
“No one gets through life unscathed,” Lewis told the audience. “Pain, rejection and sorrow have been obstacles in life, but they have also been a source of inspiration.”
“My parents were performers on the road and were never home, so relatives raised me. I missed them so much,” he recalled. “Comedy, and being the center of attention and making people laugh, began as a means to fill the emptiness. It became my life.”
“At first I didn’t know what I was doing,” Lewis laughed. “I kept going on and I found the key and that was to squelch the fear!”
“Don’t let fear rob you of opportunities,” he pointed up. “Take risks. There is no limit to what you can do, but you have to take that first step past fear. You can make it work for you.”
Here are highlights of Lewis’s views, both backstage and onstage:
“I had met Jerry Lewis briefly behind the Majestic Theater in San Antonio in January 1995 where he was performing the play ‘Damn Yankees,’” recalled Jack Dennis. “It was after a matinee show, his throat was hurting and his voice was hoarse to the point he had to be relieved of showing up for the evening performance.”
“He was staying at the La Mansion hotel on the River Walk just across the street from the theater but was unable to meet,” said Dennis. “It was a pleasure to get to go backstage at the Alamodome years later and be able to talk with this great American entertainer.”
Lewis had been watching the monitors backstage to see those going on before him onstage. Dressed in a back suit, with a red shirt and handkerchief in his front pocket, Lewis smiled from his electric wheelchair. He laughed when I asked him what his key to happiness in life. Looking at me square in the eyes, Jerry Lewis grabbed my arm with his right hand and pointed to me with his left. He smiled.
“The key to happiness and maintaining joy in your life is easy,” he grinned. “Do you remember when you were nine-years-old? If you can remember that time and always be the person you were when you were nine, you will have a happy life.”
“Applying that same sense of humor, the childlike humor of a nine-year-old, as I see it, is the secret to getting through life and getting the most out of it,” Lewis explained. “Laughter is healing. Many doctors now know that it is the truth that laughter is a terrific safety valve.”
“When I see how serious people are, it becomes automatic for me that I must stop this seriousness,” Lewis spoke. “Immediately, I become mischievous and do whatever I can and whatever it takes to lighten the mood.”
“The smiles and laughter that follow make me happy and make me know and remember I’m doing exactly what I was put on this earth to do.”
Jerry Lewis’s legacy includes more than 60 films (including 18 he wrote, directed and starred in), concerts, radio, television, and standup performances since age 5.